Someone smarter than I, either Freud or Sue Ellen Ewing, once said that we are the sum total of our fears and insecurities. The healthiest, most well-adjusted of us operate from a baseline of mild paranoia, afraid we’ll be outed as something we are not. This is the essence of the noir experience, fear and insecurity, manifesting itself in the tropes of the genre—poor life choices, inappropriate sex partners, scams gone wrong.
Nowhere else is this insecurity more evident than in the city that has no reason to exist. Dallas, a place so fearful of being second-tier that in the 1970s the powers that be considered dredging the Trinity River from downtown to the Gulf of Mexico, almost 300 miles, so that John Neely Bryan’s hamlet might have a harbor in order to compete with Houston. That, my friends, is Olympic-level self-doubt, something a crime writer relishes as much as a five-star review on Amazon.
San Antonio has the Alamo; Fort Worth serves as the gateway to the West. Austin became the capital, and Tyler sits atop the rich East Texas oil fields. But Dallas only has a flat, unending prairie, now covered with shopping malls and Mediterranean-style demi-mansions. Her historical touchstones are a grassy knoll, Neiman’s, and a sports team owned by a guy from Arkansas. With all that, the area still manages to draw in tens of thousands of new inhabitants every year, people lured by the promise of easy money and glitz, not to mention flexible lease plans for entry-level luxury cars.
Who are these people, these flawed figures who inhabit the glass and concrete canyons jutting up from the arid plains? Strippers looking to marry well, oily televangelists, regular folks angling for a steady paycheck. Overleveraged real estate developers as far as the eye can see. Together, they form the hustle that is Dallas, a dark heartbeat fueled by money, everybody on the make.
A town full of deal junkies, a noir city.
I love this place. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.